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Forty Years On

Sir Michael Wilshaw and Sir Tim Brighouse, who were both knighted for their services to education, are both quoted in the TES to commemorate the fortieth anniversary of the famous speech on education made at Ruskin College, Oxford by the then Labour Prime Minister James Callaghan.

Two men, each with visions of education that neatly sum up the great divide between those who advocate a market oriented education system based on testing, inspection and accountability, and those who put the well being of the individual learner - and the flowering of their individual talents - at the heart of education.

Human Scale Education, whose efforts over the last thirty years have been child-centred, should say where it stands. For many years from the early 1990s, Sir Tim Brighouse was a Patron of HSE. In 2002, on the occasion of his retirement as CEO of Birmingham LEA, the then chair of HSE wrote to congratulate him on his retirement and to thank him for ‘the inspiration and support you have given to teachers, parents and children for so many years’.  

Prior to his tenure at Birmingham, Tim Brighouse had been CEO of Oxfordshire and following his retirement, was appointed the Secretary of State for Education as Commissioner for London Schools, where he played an important part in the London Challenge which turned round many deprived and under resourced London schools. Throughout his career he has championed the right of children and young people to an education that ‘unlocks their minds’- a wide ranging experience across the whole spectrum of human abilities – in music, art, sport, practical skills, as well as an understanding of self and others. This is the man who while at Birmingham was described by the Tory Minister for Education John Patten as a ‘nutter’.  Thus, in our divided nation, are the battle lines in educational thinking drawn.

The Ruskin speech has significance for today. To quote the TES it ‘changed the education landscape forever’. It gave the green light for Mrs Thatcher’s Tory Government, which succeeded the Callaghan administration in 1979, to introduce market policies such as choice, competition and accountability into education as the means of raising standards. It ended teacher autonomy in matters of curriculum and pedagogy and laid the foundations for national literacy and numeracy strategies, for a national curriculum , for Ofsted and national testing. 

Forty years on we have a marketised system of education where ‘choice’ and ‘diversity’ have enabled different kinds of schools – academies and free schools - to be set up free of LEA control but following the same national curriculum and subject to the same testing regime. Competition between schools is driven by the national league tables which show the examination and test results of each school: ‘failure’ in these tables can lead to school closure.

Tim Brighouse condemns the Ruskin speech for bringing in the age of markets and managerialism: the speech was ‘a siren sounding the end of the age of hope, trust and optimism’. He believed that collaboration rather than competition between schools is in the best interests of children as is the professional right of teachers to decide on curriculum and pedagogy. After Ruskin, the need to control the education system from the centre increased dramatically. Whereas the 1944 Education Act ascribed three statutory powers to the Secretary of State, he or she now has over 2,000, while the powers of local authorities over schools are almost non-existent. By any reckoning this is a remarkable transfer of power from local to central government – a worrying democratic deficit.

Brighouse remains optimistic in the face of what can only be seen as the negation of many of his deepest held educational beliefs – as does Human Scale Education. There are still many schools and many teachers who share his beliefs. For example, Stanley Park High which was rated by the TES as ‘secondary school of the year’ and whose headteacher, David Taylor, is the current chair of Human Scale Education. The struggle to put these beliefs into practice in a hostile environment may be eased by the knowledge that disillusion with the market ideology is growing at all levels in society. It is becoming increasingly obvious that a marketised education system does not hold the answers to the task of educating children and young people today. In January of this year, in his lecture to the Arts and Media School in Islington, Brighouse called for a national debate on the broad purposes of education – a debate which he feels might bring back ‘an age of hope, trust and optimism’ .

Mary Tasker October 2016
One time chair, Human Scale Education.


Board Changes

In the last twelve months the HSE board of trustees have lost two its longest serving and passionate advocates. It is with regret that we have announce that Mary Tasker and Kate Hickman have decided to resign from the Board of HSE. Both have been sterling supports and servants of our charity and the charity would not be where it is today without them.

Mary Tasker was a wonderful Chair of the charity and saw it enjoy some of its best times, especially through the Secondary Schools Project and the work to support schools to develop HSE practices. Her leadership and commitment to fairness and equity coupled with a restless determination to break from a Gradgrind past saw the organisation flourish. In this work Kate Hickman was a steadfast and creative ally. Kate spent all her career at the innovative Stantonbury Campus and worked to see its pioneering Schools Within Schools model of smaller learning communities, emphasising belonging and teamwork, flourish.  Kate was a wonderful practitioner and brought all her experience to enrich discussion at the Board.

Although they have moved on, it is reassuring that each will continue to fight for the principles of HSE in what they both see as exceptionally difficult times They have been replaced by Debbie Silvester and Martha Wright.

Debbie is a primary school teacher in London and has great social media networking skills. Martha is a Teach First graduate and primary school teacher currently setting up a charity (Mindful Music) with excellent networking and fund-seeking skills.


Note from the Chair

I took on the role of Chair over 2 years ago when HSE was on the verge of disappearing. Working hard together the Board has enabled our phoenix to rise from the ashes. Since the renaissance we have:

There are many things we have not done such as responded to news and policy stories as well as we should, developed relationships with other organisations, gained additional funding, established a network of HSE groups. However, I think we now have good foundations to develop further and faster. For this to happen, the Board has decided that:

I feel the future is now more secure for the organisation and will remain on the Board
Robin Precey
18/6/2016

Minutes from HSE Board of Trustees meeting - 18th June 2016


Lincoln HSE Conference

Please see the document below for the Lincoln HSE Conference Report, which took place on Friday 6th May 2016.

Lincoln HSE Conference Report


AGM

Please see the documents below for the AGM Notes and the Chairman's AGM Report, which took place on Saturday 16th April 2016.

AGM Notes

Chairman's AGM Report

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